How police caught long-time con man James Hogue in Aspen

Posted at 4:45 PM, Nov 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-16 08:46:30-05

ASPEN -- He's been called "the con artist next door," a "fake everything" and listed as one of the "top 10 imposters."

So how did James Hogue get arrested in Aspen?

The story starts at an illegal shack hidden on Aspen Mountain.

Detective Jeff Fain with the Aspen Police Department calls it shack 1.0.

"The first shack had a foundation, it was more of a home," Fain told Denver7.

It was Aspen Ski Company employees who spotted it.

They got suspicious when a drill went missing and decided to go talk to the guy, Fain said.

"They found their drill, and some levels that went missing last year," Fain said. "He had a satellite radio, a Wi-Fi router, lighting -- it was a pretty comfy existence up there."

The Aspen employees told the man, later identified as Hogue, that they were going to call the cops.

When officers knocked on the door, he yelled "be right there," jumped out the back windows and we never saw him again, Fain explained.

"[When officers] returned to talk to him the next day, overnight he had cleaned the place out. He swept it clean, literally, with a broom. He was nowhere to be found," Fain said.

That was September.

Then Hogue apparently went back to his illegal mountain-side "neighborhood" and starting building shack 2.0.

"We got a phone call in early November that he was at it again," Fain said. "Building about 100 feet to the west."

Aspen Ski Company employees noticed the man carrying duffel bags down the hill, Fain said. The workers saw the man walk into the employee's parking area and load stuff into a vehicle in that lot.

"[They] looked in the windshield and saw a ski patroller parking pass that wasn't supposed to be there," Fain said. "They called police."

That led police to Hogue's name.

"Did a little searching and he had several warrants -- one extraditable to Boulder. A theft warrant," Fain said.

Police went back to the woods to arrest Hogue.

"We could see him up there in the scrub oak," Fain said. "We used a loud speaker to get him to come out and talk to me, but he disappeared."

Fain started looking for more information about Hogue.

Hogue was in the Aspen Police Department's system from the late 1990s for shoplifting, stealing a bike.

"The police department arrested him two or three times," Fain said. "But he went away."

On a whim, Fain said, he decided to use Google to search for Hogue.

"I was like 'Holy Moly,'" Fain said. "He has multiple articles about him -- the New York Times, the New Yorker -- everybody's written about this guy."

-- A Long Criminal Record --

At 26, Hogue enrolled at Palo Alto High School in California. Using the name Jay Huntsman, the supposed 17-year-old teenager won the Stanford Invitational Meet, the most prestigious high school race in the country, an article in The New Yorker states.

When reporters started asking questions about the skilled runner and Hogue got word that law enforcement was investigating, he left town. 

Hogue turned up in Colorado where he took on a new title, telling people there he had a doctorate from Stanford and was part of the faculty at that university. 

Hogue -- under the alias of "Alexi Santana" eventually got a job with a sports cross-training camp, the New York Times reports, but his stint ended when the founder of the camp got a tip about Hogue's past.

Hogue's running skills got him a scholarship to Princeton University, where he continued to go by the alias of Alexi Santana, and called himself a self-taught ranch hand from Nevada. 

But as a sophomore, another student recognized Hogue from Palo Alto. Hogue was arrested and charged with forgery, wrongful impersonation and falsifying records. Those charges landed Hogue nine months in jail. He also had to pay back nearly $22,000 in financial aid, according to a brief article from TIME magazine.

In the early 1990s, Hogue was arrested a few months after being hired as a security guard for a Harvard museum and was charged with grand larceny for stealing jewelry worth $50,000, TIME magazine also reported. 

It wasn't until 1997 that Hogue would pop up for a second time in Colorado, this time in Aspen. 

Those were the crimes Fain found in his Aspen Police computer, but the Google search turned up even more.

In 2007, Hogue pleaded guilty to felony theft and also confessed to having stolen about 7,000 items worth some $100,000 from Colorado homes over several years, the TIME article states

Hogue has been arrested more than 10 times and had seven felony convictions for theft, forged checks, impersonation, fraud, trespassing and larceny, according to a Denver Post article from 2006.

-- "I have to talk to this guy" --

After reading all this, Fain wanted to find Hogue even more.

"This infamous, amazing con man, who has done some interesting things, I have to talk to the guy," Fain said.

Fain asked the local newspapers to run Hogue's picture and that worked. A librarian spotted Hogue and called police.

Fain said Hogue gave a fake name, David Bee, but officers took him into custody and later confirmed the man was Hogue.

Hogue agreed to talk to Fain, but Fain said Hogue turned out to be lackluster.

"He wouldn't talk, he avoided questions, he said the bare minimum," Fain said.

-- More investigating to be done --

Fain said Hogue agreed to let officers search his vehicle.

Inside, officers found brand new ski jackets and brand new ski pants, some had price tags on them, Fain said.

Fain said Hogue told them there was abut $12,000 cash in the vehicle.

Fain said officers also found uncashed checks from

"That solidified in my mind that he was stealing items, putting them on Gear Trade for money and getting checks in the mail," Fain said.

Fain said a search near Hogue's illegal cabin turned up snowboards, skis and parts of a bicycle. Some of those items -- also stolen.

Hogue is currently charged with criminal impersonation, theft, possession of burglary tools and unlawful acts theft detection devices, Fain said.

Fain expects more charges to be filed.

Hogue is still wanted in Boulder for allegedly stealing prescription glass frames and selling them on eBay.

"From the customer reviews on eBay, he had significant sales volume, around $70,000 last year," Fain said.

"It's amazing that he was able to create that many personalities and fool that many people," Fain said.


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